Police knocking on door

Understanding Search and Seizure Laws in Nebraska 

Abrahamson Law Office  June 11, 2024

Most people get intimidated when they run into trouble with the law, especially search and seizure. But don't worry—the father-daughter duo at the Abrahamson Law Office has your back.

We’re here to help you understand the basics of search and seizure laws, know your rights, learn to protect yourself, and handle everything with confidence and clarity. Contact us today if you need legal assistance in Nebraska. 

Overview of Search and Seizure Laws

Search and seizure laws are designed to protect individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement.  

These laws are rooted in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states that people have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. This means that law enforcement must have a valid reason, often in the form of a warrant, to conduct a search or seize property. 

However, there are exceptions to the warrant requirement, which can sometimes lead to confusion and legal challenges. For example, if law enforcement has probable cause to believe that a crime is being committed and that evidence may be destroyed if they wait for a warrant, they may conduct a search without one.  

Moreover, if an individual gives consent to a search or if evidence is in plain view during lawful observation, a warrant may not be necessary. Understanding these nuances is critical for you to ensure your rights are not violated and that the legal process is duly followed. 

When Can Law Enforcement Conduct a Search?

In general, law enforcement in Nebraska needs a warrant to conduct a search. However, there are several exceptions to this rule: 

  • Consent: If you give law enforcement permission to search your property, they can do so without a warrant. 

  • Plain view: If an officer sees evidence of a crime in plain view, they can seize it without a warrant. 

  • Search incident to arrest: If you are arrested, law enforcement can search your person and immediate surroundings without a warrant. 

  • Exigent circumstances: If there is an immediate threat to public safety or the risk of evidence being destroyed, law enforcement can conduct a search without a warrant. 

  • Automobile exception: If law enforcement has probable cause to believe that a vehicle contains evidence of a crime, they can search the vehicle without a warrant. 

  • Stop and frisk: If an officer has reasonable suspicion that a person may be armed and dangerous, they can stop and frisk the person for weapons. 

  • Hot pursuit: If law enforcement is in immediate or continuous pursuit of a suspect who they believe has committed a crime, they can enter a home or premises without a warrant to make an arrest or prevent the suspect from escaping. 

  • Border searches: Customs and border agents have broader authority to conduct searches at U.S. borders and ports of entry without a warrant or probable cause. 

  • Probation and parole searches: If warrantless searches are stipulated as a condition of their release, individuals on probation or parole may be subject to them. 

Search and Seizure Laws in Nebraska

Nebraska laws complement federal guidelines on search and seizure. One key aspect is the "Nebraska Constitution Article I, Section 7," which mirrors the Fourth Amendment but can offer additional protections in some cases. 

Nebraska State Patrol and Local Police 

The Nebraska State Patrol and local police departments must follow both federal and state guidelines when conducting searches and seizures. This includes obtaining a warrant when necessary and respecting the exceptions outlined above. 

Vehicle Searches 

In Nebraska, law enforcement can search your vehicle without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe it contains evidence of a crime. This is known as the "automobile exception." For instance, if an officer smells marijuana during a traffic stop, they may have probable cause to search the vehicle. 

School Searches 

Nebraska law also addresses searches in schools. School officials can search a student's locker or belongings if they have reasonable suspicion that the student has violated school rules or the law. This is a lower standard than probable cause, reflecting the need to maintain a safe school environment. 

Your Rights During a Search

Understanding your rights during a search can help you protect yourself and ensure that law enforcement follows proper procedures. 

Right to Remain Silent 

If law enforcement approaches you, remember that you have the right to remain silent. You do not have to answer questions or provide information that could incriminate you. 

Right to Refuse Consent 

You have the right to refuse consent for a search. If law enforcement does not have a warrant or a valid exception, they cannot conduct the search without your permission. Be polite but firm in stating that you do not consent to the search. 

Right to Witness the Search 

If law enforcement conducts a search with a warrant, you have the right to be present and watch the search if you do not interfere with their work. This allows you to see what is being searched and ensure that officers do not exceed the scope of the warrant. 

What to Do if Your Rights Are Violated

If you believe that your rights have been violated during a search, here’s what you can do: 

Document Everything 

Write down everything that happened, including the names and badge numbers of the officers involved, the time and place of the search, and any witnesses present. 

Do Not Resist 

Even if your rights are being violated, do not resist or argue with law enforcement. This can escalate the situation and lead to additional charges. 

Get Legal Help 

Reach out to a lawyer. They have the experience and knowledge to help you understand your rights and take appropriate legal action. 

Partner With Criminal Defense Attorneys in Omaha, Nebraska

At Abrahamson Law Office, our father-daughter team is committed to helping you through every step of the legal process. We serve clients in Omaha, Nebraska, Sarpy County, Douglas County, Washington County, Saunders County, Otoe County, and Dodge County . 

Call today to schedule a consultation with skilled criminal defense attorneys. Together, we can ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive the best possible legal representation.